Module Provider: School of Politics, Economics and International Relations
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Autumn / Spring term module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Module version for: 2017/8

Module Convenor: Dr Tim Vlandas

Email: t.r.g.vlandas@reading.ac.uk

Summary module description:

Inequality is everywhere around us: different individuals earn different salaries, people of different genders and backgrounds have access to different economic opportunities, and those at the top of the income distribution have radically distinct life chances than those at the bottom. What explains rising inequality, is it fair and what are the consequences? Should anything be done to reduce inequality, and if so, what?«br /» This course aims to answer these questions by providing students with the analytical tools and knowledge to understand and explain the evolution of earnings, racial and gender inequality over time and its variation across developed countries. It also considers the economic, normative and political implications of different forms of inequality, in particular gender and racial inequality. Is inequality at the top of the income distribution (i.e. the 1% v. the rest of us) the inevitable outcome of a well-functioning market system or does it suggest problems in the way our democracy work? Does inequality undermine democracy for instance by affecting political participation or increasing the appeal of non-liberal populist parties? Take the course and you will find out more about these fascinating questions and more!


The aims of the module are to provide students with an understanding of what is inequality and how it varies across time, countries, and individuals as well as explore the political, economic and normative determinants and implications of inequality.

Assessable learning outcomes:

At the end of this module students will be able to:

• discuss the different dimensions, determinants and consequences of inequality;

• identify and critically assess the normative considerations surrounding various forms of inequality;

• analyse information on the subject through their own independent research;

• articulate arguments effectively, both orally and in writing;

• develop an awareness of the distinctions between economic and political explanations of inequality as well as between normative and positive approaches to inequality.


Additional outcomes:

Outline content:

The module typically deals with the following topics: (1) whether inequality is fair and economically efficient, (2) the political and economic determinants of inequality, (3) gender and (4) racial inequality, (5) the political implications of inequality, and (6) inequality at the top.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:

The module will entail a series of lectures led by academic staff and seminars where students make short presentations, as well as a series of workshops where students discuss their mini-research project. 

Assessment will be based on a presentation, an essay, and a project where students consider the determinants, consequences and normative considerations in a chosen case that focuses on one type of inequality in one country. 


Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 10 5
Seminars 5 2
Practicals classes and workshops 2
Guided independent study 85 91
Total hours by term 100.00 100.00
Total hours for module 200.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written assignment including essay 40
Project output other than dissertation 50
Oral assessment and presentation 10

Other information on summative assessment:

Visiting students will follow the same assessments to receive full credit. Visiting students attending in Autumn term only for half credit will submit the essay (of 1,500 words) and do the presentation. 

Formative assessment methods:

Penalties for late submission:
The Module Convenor will apply the following penalties for work submitted late, in accordance with the University policy.

  • where the piece of work is submitted up to one calendar week after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): 10% of the total marks available for the piece of work will be deducted from the mark for each working day (or part thereof) following the deadline up to a total of five working days;
  • where the piece of work is submitted more than five working days after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): a mark of zero will be recorded.

  • The University policy statement on penalties for late submission can be found at: http://www.reading.ac.uk/web/FILES/qualitysupport/penaltiesforlatesubmission.pdf
    You are strongly advised to ensure that coursework is submitted by the relevant deadline. You should note that it is advisable to submit work in an unfinished state rather than to fail to submit any work.

    Length of examination:

    Requirements for a pass:

    40% overall

    Reassessment arrangements:

    If a student fails to pass the year at the first attempt there is an opportunity to be re-assessed on one further occasion at the next opportunity in those modules achieving a mark of less than 40%. Students who are eligible for re-assessment have the right to re-assessment in all elements even if they have previously passed one of those elements. It is expected, however, that the majority of students would probably elect not to repeat an element in which they had already passed, in which case the confirmed marks would be carried forward. 

    Coursework: Failed or missing coursework should be re-submitted by 1st August, emailed directly to politics@reading.ac.uk, AND submitted on Blackboard.

    Additional Costs (specified where applicable):

    Last updated: 4 May 2017

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